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Barbara L. Jouette, Attorney, P.C.
888-268-7997 / 214-385-4562

Adoption by stepparent possible after parental rights terminated

It is a sad fact, but we probably all know someone who would qualify as a “deadbeat” parent. Although it is usually associated with a parent who fails to support his or her child financially, that term can also apply to a parent who fulfils financial obligations but never spends any time with the child.

Some of these children get lucky: the custodial parent meets and marries a new spouse who willingly takes on the responsibility of supporting his or her stepchild both financially and psychologically. But in that relationship, something is still missing. A stepparent has no legal rights to his or her stepchild without taking some sort of legal action in court. The first step in this process is known as termination of parental rights of the absent parent.

If the stepparent wants to legally adopt the child, the absent parent’s legal status must be legally terminated. Legally, a child can only have two parents. So the stepparent can’t just file to adopt the child before one parent agrees, or is forced, to step aside.

In some situations, the absent parent may willingly agree to the termination. After all, a parent who no longer sees the child probably doesn’t want to continue to pay child support either. Legal termination and adoption by the stepparent relieves the natural parent of both of these obligations.

Sometimes even a parent who has shown no interest in the child for some time may decide to rise to the occasion once the petition for termination is filed. For whatever reason, whether fear of public opinion, a sudden attack of consciousness, or even just a vendetta against the other parent, a fight may ensue. Texas law provides for the possibility of a termination of parental rights even against that parent’s wishes if certain criteria are met and the court finds that it is in the best interest of the child for the termination to be ordered.

If you are a parent whose child has been abandoned financially or psychologically, or both, by the other parent, and your new spouse is interested in making the child legally his or her own, an attorney with experience in stepparent adoption can help walk you through the process, whether the petition launches a legal battle or not.

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